Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Truman Coe on LDS Beliefs

In 1836, a Presbyterian pastor named Truman Coe, who had lived in Kirtland for several years by that time, published an article for The Ohio Observer explaining what the Latter-day Saints were like and what they believed. Today I'd like to quote from his summary, as reprinted in Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe's 1836 Description of Mormonism", BYU Studies 17/3 (1977): 5-6.

In regard to their religious sentiments, the fundamental principle of Mormonism is, that God continues to hold intercourse with the saints on earth by visions and revelations, as freely and familiarly as he has done in any age of the world. That the true church have the same power to cast out devils, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, to drink poison unhurt, and to recover the sick by laying on of hands. They make great use of the declaration of our Savior in Mark xvi. 17, 18, and strenuously contend that the promise applies to all that believe in every age.

They contend that the God worshipped by the Presbyterians and all other sectarians is no better than a wooden god. They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself. They believe in the final restoration of all men except apostate Mormons. They blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, and can never have forgiveness, [...] neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Their avowed object is to restore christianity to its primeval purity. In the true style of fanaticism they regard themselves as the exclusive favorites of heaven; and the whole religious world as natural brute beasts that know nothing. After the example of our Savior they have recently ordained and commissioned twelve apostles and seventy elders, to go throughout this heathen country and to give a final call to repent and be baptised and believe in Mormonism before the wicked are cut off. The people of this region are viewed by them as standing in the place of Chorasm and Bethsaida, and Capernaum, unwilling to believe, in spite of all the mighty works they have tried to perform. They are habitually pretending to perform. They are habitually pretending to speak in tongues, and to the working of miracles, but nobody can have any evidence of these wonders but those who have Mormon ears.

If you can use your imagination for a moment, think about what someone like Truman Coe - a non-LDS pastor living in an LDS-saturated community and many of whose congregants are fleeing the area to get away from the LDS presence - would write as a description of basic LDS beliefs today. How would it match up with this? How would it differ? And why?

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